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Careers

Where the (Few) Jobs Are

To increase your chances of landing a paycheck, think health care, education and Uncle Sam.

Economists may be seeing the "green shoots" of a nascent recovery, and investors are hearing the rumblings of a new bull market. But good news for anyone looking for a job is still in the distance. As a rule, job growth lags an economic turnaround by several months. The last recession ended in November 2001; employment didn't turn up until September 2003.

So far in the current recession, more than five million people have lost their jobs, and another 2.5 million jobs are at risk. Kiplinger's doesn't expect unemployment to peak until early next year, at 10% of the workforce, up from 8.9% in April.

We may have to wait until 2013 before the economy again supports full employment, and even then fewer people might be working than during the last peak. (There is always some unemployment, even when the economy is humming along at full speed.) "The environment has changed," says Allen Sinai, chief economist at Decision Economics. "Companies' expectations and aspirations are way, way down."

That doesn't bode well for the Class of '09. Employers expect to cut job offers to college graduates by 22% this year -- the first down year since 2003, reports the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Instead of dictating terms in a sellers' market, 2009 grads must learn to compete.

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There are bright spots. Health care will remain high growth, in part because of the emphasis on universal insurance coverage. Jobs will be plentiful for a range of skill levels, from health-care aides to nurses to social workers. Educators of all stripes, too, will be in demand. Look for pockets of strength in metro areas known for their ivory towers or medical centers: Boston, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, Chicago, Seattle. States rich in energy or commodities remain resilient: Texas, Oklahoma, Montana, Wyoming.

The federal government could hire nearly 600,000 new public servants over the next four years. Nearly every federal agency will be looking for talent as retiring baby-boomers are replaced, staffs are expanded to keep pace with greater workloads and new hires are brought in to oversee the Obama administration's economic-recovery plan. The surge will be on par with that produced by Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, says John Palguta, of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging government employment.

Corporate refugees may also find a home in the nonprofit world. A survey of more than 400 directors of nonprofits during the first quarter of 2009 found that they expected some 24,000 vacancies in senior positions, many in finance and fund-raising. Private-sector skills are welcome: More than one-fifth of hires between June 2007 and December 2008 were newcomers to the nonprofit sector.

For cubicle dwellers, the worst may be over. The pace of layoffs, hiring moratoriums and salary freezes looks to have peaked, says consulting giant Watson Wyatt. Pay raises are expected to stay at 2% in 2009 but will hit 3% in 2010. It's not much, but it's something.